Manila: The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to cancel its planned acquisition of 16 utility helicopters from Canada after the North American country ordered a review of the contract.
“I want to tell the Armed Forces to cut the deal, don’t push through with it and somehow we will look for another supplier,” the 72-year-old Philippine leader said.
Last Tuesday, the Philippines and Canada signed a $233 million deal (Dh855 million) for the purchase of Bell 412EPI helicopters.
However, Canadian Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the deal is still “under review.”
The Canadian official said his government is concerned on how the government intends to use the helicopters.
“The Canadians told us that they will only sell the helicopters to the Philippines if it is used for evacuation and emergency, we cannot employ it in counter-insurgency operations,” the President said.
The twin-turbine Bell 412EPI is an upgraded version of the Bell UH-1 series helicopters that form the backbone of the Philippine rotary-wing fleet. It is said to be more capable, able to lift heavier cargoes which is crucial in humanitarian missions.
The Philippines had been fighting a 50-year-old insurgency and the air assets that the government wants to buy would be of help in fighting off the rebellion. Fighting between the communist-led New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and government forces had intensified in recent months after Duterte called off the peace negotiation with the insurgents.
Prior to this, the government had suffered setbacks after its forces were attacked by the rebels while supposed peace negotiations are taking place.
The Philippines sources its military hardware mainly from US and other Western sources, but Duterte said he might look for other options such as buying weapons from Russia and China and other countries such as Israel and Turkey.
“We respect the policy of the Canadian people, well and good, do not buy anything that has something to do with arms,” Duterte said in a recent speech.
At the same time, he assured the Canadians that “we are friends, we do not hate you, we love Canadians because there are a lot of Filipinos there.”
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he has yet to receive a formal order from Duterte to call off the contract.